Lives of the English Saints
John Henry Newman

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The lives of St. Gundleus and St. Bettelin (prose portion) and "possibly also ... part of the 'Life of St. Edelwald'" are attributed to Newman by Hutton, the editor of the edition from which the works included here are taken. Father Blehl attributes to Newman the lives of St. Gundleus, St. Edelwald, and the prose part of St. Bettelin (attributing the verse to J. D. Dalgairns)—NR.

Reference: Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J. John Henry Newman: A Bibliograhical Catalogue of His Writings. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1978.

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Apologia, Note D, Series of Saints' Lives of 1843-4

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{3} THE following pages were put to press with the view of forming part of a series of Lives of English Saints, according to a prospectus which appeared in the course of last autumn, but which has since, for private reasons, been superseded. As it is not the only work undertaken in pursuance of the plan then in contemplation, it is probable, that, should it meet with success, other Lives, now partly written, will be published in a similar form by their respective authors on their own responsibility.

The question will naturally suggest itself to the reader, whether the miracles recorded in these narratives, especially those contained in the Life of St. Walburga, are to be received as matters of fact; and in this day, and under our present circumstances, we can only reply, that there is no reason why they should not be. They are the kind of facts proper to ecclesiastical history, just as instances of sagacity and daring, personal prowess or crime, are the facts proper to secular history. And if the tendency of credulity or superstition to exaggerate and invent creates a difficulty in the reception of facts ecclesiastical, so does the existence of party spirit, private interests, personal attachments, malevolence, and the like, call for caution and criticism {4} in the reception of facts secular and civil. There is little or nothing, then, primâ facie, in the miraculous accounts in question to repel a properly taught and religiously disposed mind; which will, accordingly, give them a prompt and hearty acquiescence, or a passive admission, or receive them in part, or hold them in suspense, or absolutely reject them, according as the evidence makes for or against them, or is or is not of a trustworthy character.

As to the miracles ascribed to St. Walburga, it must be remembered that she is one of the principal Saints of her age and country. "Scarcely any of the illustrious females of Old or New Testament can be named," says J. Basnage, "who has had so many heralds of her praises as Walburga; for, not to speak of her own brother Willibald, who is reported, without foundation, to have been his sister's panegyrist, six writers are extant, who have employed themselves in relating the deeds or miracles of Walburga—Wolfhard, Adelbold, Medibard, Adelbert, Philip, and the nuns of St. Walburga's monastery."—Ap. Canis. Lect. Ant. t. ii. Part iii. p. 265.

Nor was this renown the mere natural growth of ages. It begins within the very century of the Saint's death. At the end of that time Wolfhard, a monk of the diocese of Aichstadt, where her relics lay, drew up an account of her life, and of certain miracles which had been wrought in the course of three years, about the time he wrote, by a portion of her relics bestowed upon the monastery of Monheim in Bavaria; his information, at least in part, coming from the monk who had the placing {5} of the sacred treasure in its new abode. The two mentioned below, p. 97, seem the only miracles which were distinctly reported of her as occurring in her lifetime, and they were handed down apparently by tradition: "hæc duo tantum præclara miracula," says Wolfhard, "quæ Virgo beata peregit in vitâ, huic inserere dignum putavi opusculo, quæ nostram ad memoriam pervenere." He speaks of the miracles after her death as "quæ hactenus Dominus per eam operatus est, et operatur quotidie;" and of their beginning shortly after her death (A.D. 777 or 780), "parvo interjecto tempore," though those recorded do not commence till the episcopate of Otkar, whom Henschenius considers to have been a bishop of the Council of Mayence in 848, while others place him some years later, that is, in Wolfhard's own time.

Wolfhard speaks distinctly of the miraculous oil (vid. below, p. 112) as then dropping: "invenerunt cineres," he says, speaking of the date, 893, "quasi lymphâ tenui madefactos, ut quasi guttatim ab eis rosis stillæ extorqueri valerent." Also Philip, Bishop of Aichstadt, A.D. 1306, one of the biographers of the Saint, as above mentioned, speaks of the existence of the oil in his day: "miracula usque in hodiernum diem continuata feliciter crebescunt. Nam de membris ejus virgineis, maxime tamen pectoralibus, sacrum emanat oleum, quod gratiâ Dei et intercessione B. Walpurgæ Virginis cæcos illuminat, surdos audire facit," &c. Nay, he speaks of his own recovery, by means of it, from a critical illness: "Phialam plenam ebibimus; eâdem die creticavimus, et brevi pòst in tempore, sanitati omnimodè {6} restituti sumus." The nuns of Aichstadt, who drew up the epitome at an unknown date, but after the invention of printing, say the same thing; Mabill. Act. Bened. s. sec. 3, p. 2, p. 307. Rader, in his Bavaria Sacra (1615), speaks of cures in his time, one of which was told him by the subject of it; and Gretser, in like manner, speaks of the miracle as then existing (1620), "videas guttas modô majores, modô minores," &c., and has written a treatise in defence of it.

It may be right to add, that Mabillon in his edition of Wolfhard's work, professes to omit, without assigning reason, some of the miracles it contains: which J. Basnage attributes to disbelief of them: "Mabillonius, vir acutæ naris, plurima ex singulis libris omisit, nec sibi metuens lectorem monuit." Moreover a report has come down to us, that at one time Wolfhard himself was put into prison by Erconwold, the Bishop at whose instance he had written, "cum graviter contra Episcopum deliquisset," "in consequence of grave offences against the Bishop."

J. H. N.

LITTLEMORE, February 21, 1844.

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